C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

On judging books by their covers

Thank you to everyone for your input on the covers for my book, Self-help for Stoners, Stuff to Read When You’re High (available on all e-readers Nov. 1, cha-cha-cha!)

The input has been put in. By a huge majority, the votes are for the bright orange cover (below). When it’s on a shelf, digital or wooden, it will stand out. It was an interesting experiment to see how people reacted to the covers. The happy thing is that, even among people who weren’t so sure about the orange cover, most of them still thought that cover could be effective. The other aspect about book cover colors is a little more inside baseball: The rule of thumb is that, unless it’s a golf or gardening book, green covers don’t sell very well.  (It’s one of those weird little details I learned from the Banff Publishing Workshop. It was reinforced by years of selling books for multiple publishers. I’m not sure about much, but that tidbit is pretty consistent except for The Celestine Prophecy.) 

Soon you’ll be hearing from my graphic designer, Kit Foster of www.kitfosterdesign.com. Kit’s a novelist, too, and very talented. Someone told me the other day how impressed he was with Kit’s covers. They do look like they’re from a large publishing house, not my tiny kingdom of Ex Parte Press. We’re all told we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. Without a solid cover, no one will pick it up or click on it to discover the tasty treats inside.

The process of working with a graphic designer: When Kit and I started a dialogue about book covers, the arrangement evolved organically. I described what I had in mind and sent him a sample of the manuscript. He suggested a few things and I saw his wisdom and asked for some tweaks. He sent me a cover and we narrowed it down with another round or two or three of tweaks. His input was invaluable. I have no idea how he does what he does and I bowed to his experience with graphics. Even though I have a deep background in selling books, my focus was the words. Kit came up with the images to sell the words. With Sex, Drugs & Romeo, the final graphic is very close to his original proposal. With Sex, Death and Mind Control (for fun and profit), we went back and forth a bit more, but Kit was always patient and helpful. The only element I knew I wanted to keep was the author tag. I wanted it to be consistent across the bottom in cherry red on all the covers so my books would be instantly identifiable for cross-promotion purposes.

Kit’s great at what he does and a photographer friend of mine is also awesome. I’m going to ask them to guest post and drop some science on us about the art of book cover creation. In the meantime, rethink your green cover and ask for a poll from your network of writer friends and readers. People will often help if you dare to ask.

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